RAUNCHY SIGNIFICANCE

Sorry to Bother You is about important matters.  It looks at societal trends which affect us all  —  and to which we knowingly or unknowingly contribute.  Telemarketing and the invasion of privacy that it entails.  The influence of corporations on our daily lives.  The numbing of sensibilities by the televised repetition of horrors.

Central to the plot is an appalling television show  —  insensitively viewed by millions.  A central feature of the show is the beating up of contestants, then bathing them in excrement.  America watches, enthralled.

The moments about privacy  —  and its lack  —  which suddenly put  the telemarketer in the room with the called victim, is cleverly achieved through visual/technological means which are exclusively cinema’s.  Boots Riley sets us up for accepting anything,and we move from our black hero at a party leading whites in a racist rap chant to Frankensteinian fantasy;  and he has us believing it all.

LAKEITH STANFIELD
photograph by Rachael Wright, used with permission

The acting is admirable.  Sorry to Bother You is superbly cast down to the smallest roles.  Lakeith Stanfield is outstanding.  He is a real charmer, dirty mouth and all.

Sorry to Bother You
Boots Riley
2018

NEXT Friday POST December 14

Until then,
See you at the movies,
Rick

SHORT TAKES – EARLY THIRTIES HOLLYWOOD

QUOTE FOR THE WEEK:

There were years when I went to the cinema almost every day and maybe even twice a day, and those were the years between ’36 and the war, the years of my adolescence. It was a time when the cinema became the world for me. (“A Cinema-Goer’s Autobiography” in The Road to San Giovanni by Italo Calvino.)

Rick’s Journal    –  MY FILM CAREER

Baby  Face
Alfred E. Green
1933

I never look forward to any film featuring Barbara Stanwyck  —  except The Lady Eve, Double Indemnity or Meet John Doe.  But this is a gripping story, visually presented.  The camera climbs up the building in which our “heroine” continually reaches for and achieves success.

She is believable in the role and gives the sex scenes  real punch.

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Stingaree
William A. Wellman
1934

Set on an Australian cattle ranch this period piece is a silly melodrama, but the direction and the performances makes us believe it.

Director William Wellman

There are fine moments.  There is a scene of Richard Dix and Irene Dunne exploring a trunk of clothes that has a magical light.  And in an at-the-piano scene in which Dunne sings to Dix’s accompaniment, their exchange of amorous glances is potent.  More than once in the film  Dunne’s thoughts in the form of unspoken flashbacks are superimposed over her face on screen.  The common silent technique is used to advantage here in 1934.

Unfortunately, the supposed Australian setting is warred against by a typical-then  Hollywood mix of accents.

SPOILER ALERT:  The ending is a 1934 shocker as Dunne rides off, on horseback, with Dix who is fleeing the police.

My Halliwell guide says that the film has a color sequence, but there was not one in the Turner Classic Movies print I viewed.

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ADDENDUM TO FABULOUS DUO (Rick’s Flicks 10/26)

CINEVENT comment on the sequence in which Sascha plays his New York-inspired composition:  “The scene opens as Sascha is playing…As Gaynor runs down the fire escape, the music surges forth with a pulsating rhythm that could only be Gershwin.  For this complex mixture of curiosity and awe turning to alienation and depression, Butler created a wonderful montage full of Germanic images, including spirits rising from a graveyard and the skyline metamorphosing into clutching hands, as Gaynor runs through the city, each block bringing more terror than the last.  Gershwin’s score goes on to capture these images with a piece of music so reminiscent of his Rhapsody in Blue that he initially called it Rhapsody in Rivers.”  (Eventually New York Rhapsody.)    —    (From CINEVENT notes 2007 by Dave Snyder and Steven Haynes.)

THE LEGENDARY DUO _____________________________________________________________

AND A FINAL QUOTE:

Director Jim Jarmusch on photographer Robby Müller:  “He really taught me how to make a film:  how to avoid the obvious in locations; how to use beauty in the service of the story and characters; and how black and white can stimulate the imagination by a reduction of information  —  that it can be more dreamlike and evocative than color.”

Müller, who photographed Jarmusch’s Dead Man and Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas, died this past summer.

(Quote from the New York Times obituary for Robby Müller by Richard Sandomir, 8/11/18.)

NEXT FRIDAY POST November 30

Until then,
See you at the movies,
Rick

 

 

 

 

TWO FROM 2017

Mary Shelley
Haifaa Al-Mansour
2017

This is a romance, loosely based on the lives of Mary Shelley and her husband poet.  Playing the Mary Shelley of this script Elle Fanning is excellent, and Douglas Booth is good as the poet and looks remarkably like the drawings and paintings we have of him.

Percy Bysshe Shelley

The photography (David Ungaro) and production design and art direction (Paki Smith and Nigel Pollock, respectively) are outstanding and achieve a decided sense of period.  But the concept of the film and its characters derive from a modern sensibility.

But the unflattering portrait of Byron rings true.  Another point of historical accuracy is sustained by the performance of Bel Powley as Mary Shelley’s stepsister Claire  —  throughout the Shelley’s marriage and throughout her life a royal pain, and not in the neck.

Contrary to the near-alcoholic of the script, poet Shelley was a teetotaler.

_______________________________________________________

King Arthur:  Legend of the Sword
Guy Ritchie
2017

King Arthur is ridiculous.  The court of Arthur’s father Uther (Pendragon) fight not just prehistoric monsters but mythological prehistoric monsters who carry veritable cities of warriors on their backs.  They do this to strangely contemporary music.  Meanwhile, back in  the city, Arthur and his gang of smuggling thugs, steal and kill and plot.  Are they supposed to be speaking in rap?

How Jude Law became involved in this preposterous film would seem a mystery, but he must have known what he was letting himself in for.  He manages to be believable, and this is much more than can be said of Charlie Hunnan’s Rocky Balboa version of Arthur.  Or is it 007 on horseback?

Example of King Arthur caption:  Metal Clanging…All Men Yelling and Grunting.  (Indeed)

Example of King Arthur dialogue:  “Come on you guys.”

A further example:  “F— me!”

If we’re going to replace Arthur’s honor, nobility and purity with something else, the something else needs to be better than this.

NEXT FRIDAY POST November 16

Until then,
See you at the movies,
Rick

The romance of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table. Abridged from Malory’s Morte d’Arthur by Alfred W. Pollard. Illustrated by Arthur Rackham. Published 1920 by Macmillan in New York.

 

 

 

 

 

FABULOUS DUO

Delicious
David Butler
1931

screenplay by Guy Bolton and Sonya Levien
from a story by Bolton
music, George Gershwin; lyrics, Ira Gershwin

The music and lyrics are surprisingly undistinguished, though my most musically literate friend thinks that Delicious (pronounced De-lish-i-us) is a good song.  And the kaleidoscopic impressions of New York visually accompanying a piano rhapsody by Sachsa, a Russian immigrant smitten with Heather (the Gaynor character), are near-European.    But Gaynor and Farrell are, as always, splendid together; and they are what matters here.

THE LEGENDARY DUO

Everything takes too long.  Story and character development are leisurely and occur in something of a sound stage vacuum.   It is, nonetheless, believable in the way of  that wondrous Hollywood of the time.  This is accomplished largely through the two stellar performances and the support of the heroine’s immigrant friends.  (Program notes from Cinevent, the Columbus-based film festival, puts the film ahead of its particular time:  “Butler shows an innate feeling for talking pictures throughout the film…[there is] an understated ease to the film technically…”)

Farrell’s speaking voice is pleasant.  There is nothing wrong with his voice.  He does, in sound, lack the magical presence he brought to the silent world.  But he remains a good actor.

NEXT Friday POST November 9

Until then,
GET UP AND GO TO THE MOVIES.
See you there,
Rick

 

JOHN MILLS IN HIS PRIME

Rick’s Journal    –    MY FILM CAREER

The October Man
Roy Baker
1947

I did not see the significant décor and the emphasis on locale and on details of English life that others have seen.  I saw two of the greatest performances of all my cinema-going years.

John Mills and Joan Greenwood are magnificent.  Their chemistry is fiercely charged from their first meeting, as it should be according to this script.  I have rarely believed so completely that two people are in love.  I was pulling for them as I have pulled for few characters.

In an outstanding supporting cast,  Kay Walsh is thoroughly unlikable, and excellent, as a troubled user of other people.

There are occasional process shots, but overall the harsh black and white photography is good.  Ordinarily, I question over-use of close-ups.  But these two faces  —  two souls  —  concern us, and these two stirring performances need to be closely observed.

screenplay by Eric Ambler
photography by Erwin Hillier
with Felix Aylmer, James Hayter and Juliet Mills

John Mills as Pip in the David Lean masterpiece GREAT EXPECTATIONS (Pinterest photo)

NEXT FRIDAY POST October 12

Until then,
See you AT the movies,
Rick

EARLY CAPRA

OSCAR’S PAST    –    WHEN THE ROAD WAS ROYAL

THREE-TIME ACADEMY AWARD WINNERS

 

Frank Capra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingrid Bergman
(Army Weekly photo)

Meryl Streep

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

——————————————————————————————————————–Rick’s Journal    –      MY FILM CAREER

Flight
Frank Capra
1929

This is a silly romantic comedy/melodrama which Frank Capra did not make interesting or memorable, just watchable. 

All the aerial shots, which everyone loved then and everyone still loves, are always a bore to me (the cheekily edited ones in Top Gun of course excepted, along with the madly scored ones in Apocalypse Now).  In his book The Name Above the Title, in which Capra proves himself capable of savaging himself, he clearly likes this film of his.  And what does he write about almost entirely?  —  the aerial shots.

The expressive face of Lila Lee helps the film, especially in a scene with Jack Holt (SPOILER ALERT !) involving a dropped ring which she finally realizes he had meant to give her.  How much she conveys without dialogue reminded me of similar silent film moments.

Jack Holt is good.  Writer/actor Ralph Graves is an unimpressive performer.  He is uninteresting with the kind of sappy countenance and manner popular then.

SPOILER ALERT!  An example of lapse of taste and neglect of character:  Death forgotten, and followed by unfunny comedy:  The Graves character, after their plane crash, has just seen a member of his unit through death.  Making for one of the film’s countless clichés, the dying man is of course the guy who made Graves’ life miserable throughout the movie’s running time.  Survivor Graves is finally rescued by the Jack Holt character who, for the last reel, hasn’t spoken to him except to humiliate him.  And Graves, the plot’s untrusted flyer, flies the rescue plane back to home base.  Why?  Is Holt injured?

Anyway:  Graves has just been rescued from a dire predicament, just fought Nicaraguan rebels, just held the hand of a dying comrade and watched him die  —  and, to entertain himself, does loop-the-loops all the way back to the flying field, then flies over low several times to scare those on the field waiting for the plane to land.

This is followed by a supposedly comic vomiting scene.

Wasn’t anyone thinking?  What was genius Capra thinking?

We end with the Graves character training new recruits, imitating the disrespect that Holt showed earlier.  Moral, apparently satisfying and satisfied:  No one learns anything.

The scenes of the Nicaraguans fighting the marines look good.  Those scenes felt real.  (Capra writes in his book that Nicaragua was La Mesa.)

Frank Capra’s informative, delicious autobiography is called The Name Above the Title.  Macmillan, 1971.

COMING SOON to Rick’s Flicks:  “Best Books About Film.”

NEXT FRIDAY POST September 14

Until then,
See you at the movies,
Rick

GETTING PERSONAL

selected diary jottings from

Rick’s Journal    —    MY FILM CAREER

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Robert Z. Leonard
1940

I am charmed by this film which I have just seen for the first time since I was taken to see it by my Uncle Roy at the Palace Theatre on Forsythe Street in my beloved Jacksonville.

Its pace is perfect.  Oh!  Did movies move in those days!  Fluent cameras moved.  (Notice the flow and movement of especially the first part of Gone with the Wind.)

This non-admirer of Greer Garson must admit that she makes an excellent Elizabeth Bennett.  I remember a critic remarking that she is more an MGM heroine than she is Miss Bennet.  But plucky Greer here always has the pluck of Austen’s celebrated character.

Laurence Olivier looks exactly like Mr. Darcy, and he is convincing and dashing in his unlikeableness.  He once or twice is guilty of those squeaky chokes and gurgles which he sometimes uses to express embarrassment and tension.  But he thoroughly understands the character, and this is a good performance.

Frieda Inescort

Edmund Gwen is very good, and so is Mary Boland.  Frieda Inescort, as Miss Bingley, the sister of the eligible bachelor, is outstanding and very handsome.

Edna May Oliver is good playing Edna May Oliver with impeccable timing.

I think this film may have a higher reputation than it deserves  on the basis of its production values.  The Academy Award-winning sets and the costuming are excellent.  But of course it is studio-bound.   What wasn’t then, especially from MGM.  And there are some glaring process shots warring against the meticulously created milieu.

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getting very personal

The Carpetbaggers
Edward Dmytryk
1964

 

I finally watched this film to see Alan Ladd again, to see him in something I had never viewed.  His performance is okay if you grant him the general outré-ness of the movie itself.  It’s vulgar, deliberately harsh and shocking (for its time).  It is sill vulgar in this or any time.

I still remember being shocked b y the billboard advertising the film in Times Square  —  at Christmastime.

The Alan Ladd character and the Lew Ayers character are the only two in the story with any class.  The other people are despicable, and the novelist Harold Robbins probably didn’t know enough to care whether we care about them or not.

Bob Cummings is good as an avaricious, craven sonofabitch.

Pinterest photo, Wiki Commons

 

So, I saw the  beloved Alan one more time and fear that in the farewell scene with Carroll Baker he might be performing under the influence; but of course he manages.  Like Montgomery Clift and, say, Audie Murphy, he was always a self-conscious actor, but he was a great star  —  and when paired with Veronica Lake, half of a matchless duo.

See Rick’s Flicks 6/20/18.

 

 

 

NEXT FRIDAY POST August 17

Until then,

See you AT the movies,

Rick

Wiki Commons public domain image